IDF’s Kfir Brigade simulates war in Gaza ahead of deployment to border next year
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IDF’s Kfir Brigade simulates war in Gaza ahead of deployment to border next year

The formerly West Bank-focused unit prepares to fight in the Strip, training inside tunnels and in cramped multi-story buildings

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade, along with troops from the canine Oketz Unit, simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade, along with troops from the canine Oketz Unit, simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Kfir Infantry Brigade completed an extensive two-month exercise simulating a war in the Gaza Strip against the Hamas terror group this week, as the hitherto West Bank-focused unit prepares to be stationed outside the coastal enclave next year.

“I am positive that now, after two months of intensive training, which tested the capabilities of commanders and soldiers, we as a brigade are more prepared than ever for the next war, and are ready for any enemy we will face in the areas where we operate,” Kfir Brigade commander Col. Zion Ratzon told troops at the end of the exercise.

To simulate fighting inside the Strip, the troops practiced combat in underground tunnels — like those used by the Gaza-ruling Hamas and other terror groups — and in the multi-story buildings that are common inside the densely packed enclave, the Israel Defense Forces said.

“They practiced fighting in urban and fortified structures, riflery and marksmanship, breaching and demolitions, and they cooperated with combat engineering, armored, surveillance, artillery and canine units,” the army said in a statement.

The Kfir Infantry Brigade — Israel’s youngest — was formed in 2005, specifically to counter Palestinian terror activities inside the West Bank. That largely remained its focus for over a decade. However, in recent years, the military has begun preparing the brigade to fight inside Gaza as well.

“The brigade practiced combating enemy activities in underground spaces, using the [unused] sewage pipes of neighborhoods that are currently under construction, as well as fighting in multi-story buildings and cramped construction sites, in order to improve their readiness for war,” the army said.

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot meets with senior officers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade, as they simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, during a large-scale exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Beginning next year, the Kfir Brigade will begin regular deployments along the Gaza border, the army said Thursday.

The brigade’s elite Haruv Reconnaissance Unit has also started focusing more on fighting inside Gaza, practicing “urban combat in a civilian environment,” the army said.

According to the IDF, it was the Kfir Brigade’s 11th exercise of the year.

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